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Boulder Jewish Festival keeps rockin’ and growin’

If you’re looking for the quintessential taste of Jewish Boulder, there’s no better place to find it than at the Boulder Jewish Festival.

This past Sunday, hundreds of people crowded the Pearl Street Mall between 13th and 15th streets for a kosher dog or burger, an over-stuffed falafel, kugel, black and whites, and sweet baklava.

“I’m going to get a knish,” one festival-goer called behind his shoulder to a friend gathering information at the Adventure Rabbi booth. “Oh!” he yelled back, picking up his pace toward the food, “they have kasha, too!”

Besides food, argued by some as the hallmark of the Jewish experience, there were plenty of booths set up hawking everything from jewelry to, well, Jewry. “I think it’s great,” said David Gorodetsky, a volunteer with ADL.

“It’s so impressive and amazing to see such a vibrant, dynamic, huge Jewish community.”

Gorodetsky manned the ADL booth in the morning and spent part of the afternoon milling around the rest of the festival’s offerings.

“This is my fourth or fifth year at the festival,” he said, “and it’s always amazing to see such a diverse Jewish community in such a small city.”

Boulder is home to more than half a dozen rabbis, a mikveh, five synagogues, a JCC, Shabbat groups, a Hillel, and Chabad organizations.

Justin Kimel and his wife, Kerri, drove to Boulder from their home in Aurora for their first festival experience.

“It’s great so far. I really like the jewelry, especially the computer mezuzahs,” Justin Kimel said about the tiny test tubes glued to circuit boards and emblazoned with a shin for the doorpost commandment.

“You can find some of these items in a synagogue shop, but not as much as what is here,” added Kerri Kimmel before turning into the falafel line.

Among the items not found in your average Judaica store: Hebrew prayer flags. Modeled after the Tibetan flags that hang from homes scattered through Boulder, these Wind Prayers, as artist Linda Spiegler refers to them, feature eight prayers printed in Hebrew including the Sh’ma, a prayer for prosperity, a prayer for peace and a prayer for forgiveness.

“I always love it when people stop to read the flags and then realize they’re written in Hebrew,” laughed Spiegler. “It’s always nice to see the knowing smile on their faces followed by the question, ‘what does that one mean?’”

Spiegler has been a vendor at the Jewish festival for the past three years. “I really like the Boulder Jewish festival. It’s a nice experience because I get to meet knew people and chat with old friends.”

There was plenty of kibbitzing going on in every direction, in every booth. But then, it’s Boulder, where everyone is connected to everyone else by three degrees or less.

At one booth, a man wearing a kipah and a very long beard explained to a passerby about the mezuzzah parchments he was creating to go inside the cases. Another booth displayed multi-colored, beaded jewelry from Israel that was warm to the touch from sitting in the sunshine.

And set up neatly beneath a tent, a older gentleman with a twisty mustache explained his art, which looked very similar to Japanese calligraphy.

“It’s a very ancient art I invented myself about 20 years ago,” Reb Bahir Davis smiled and picked up the brush. “I call it Sho-Jew-Do. The Japanese call it Sho-Do, which is just calligraphy letters made so beautiful you can’t read it. But since I don’t know Japanese so well, I use Hebrew letters, see?” he said pointed to a sheet of paper with an abstract image on it.

“That’s the word ahavah,” love.

He skillfully dipped the brush in ink and touched it to the paper, creating a tangle of lines to form the word. “I used to sell more when I gave them away for free,” Reb Bahir joked.

Of course, what would a festival be without music? And what better way to showcase Jewish liturgy than through choral music, klezmer, and rock music.

“It’s fun,” said Gorodetsky about Yom Hadash, the band that played to the afternoon crowd. “This festival gets stronger each year.”
Chazak, chazak, as they say.

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